Italian-born German pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924) settled in Berlin after an adventurous youth, and premièred his monumental Piano Concerto in C major (op. 39) there in 1904. With a male choir in the closing movement, the seventy-minute work is considered to be the longest-ever piano concerto. The piano assumes a different role in comparison with traditional concerti in that it now plays extremely long and challenging passage, now it blends into the orchestral sonority, and never plays any of the major themes.
Movement one (Prologo e Introito) sets off with a hymnic string melody from which all of the others are derived. Movement two (Pezzo giocoso) is a sort of scherzo with Italian melodies and rhythms; without, however, any folk-music references. Movement three (Pezzo serioso) is the longest, consisting of four parts and, with its recapitulations, constituting a concerto in its own right. Movement four (All’Italiana – Tarantella) offers more challenging music than before in the work. In spite of its wildly raging flow, it has the impression of being a coherent musical composition. Movement five (Cantico) is a setting of Danish playright Adam Oehlenschläger’s poem Hymn to Allah. The off-stage male choir sings chords and completely takes over the role of solo instrument. (János Ferenc Szabó)